When the Bears decided not to meet center Olin Kreutz's asking price, and the 12-year veteran departed for New Orleans, a temporary leadership vacuum was created.
It's only natural that quarterback Jay Cutler would fill the void. Just the nature of his position lends itself to a leadership role, and Cutler is more qualified than ever to take on that duty.
"He was learning the offense as we went last year," offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. "He knows the offense very, very well now. So now, when you step into the huddle, he can talk to guys about, 'Hey listen, don't forget to tighten down your split over here.'
QB Jay Cutler
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"During timeouts, he knows what to say to the team about the play that I've called. Before, it was just trying to remember and think about the things that (he had) to do. He's past that. He's grown way, way past that, and now he can read and react and not think about things so much. He's really playing exceptionally well."
And, in his third year as a Bear, Cutler said he has the confidence to let a teammate know when he's not playing well - but he's never hesitated to do that.
"I did that the last couple years," Cutler said. "I have no problem doing that. Old or young, everyone is accountable out there. If you're not doing your job, you're hurting 10 other guys out there. We've got to hold everyone to a standard."
--The Matt Forte contract extension is still somewhere between the back and front burners, and it will continue to be a diversion if not a distraction until something is finalized.
But coach Lovie Smith admires the way the fourth-year running back has gone about his business.
"I think (it's) the (same) way he's done everything since he showed up here the first day dressed in a suit, first day at Halas Hall, just ready to go on a business trip," Smith said. "That's what we've gotten from him. We realize that he has a contract issue going on right now, but he's come to work every day, hasn't missed a beat, hasn't missed a practice. He's handled it well. But that's what you expect from a player like that."
Forte had just four carries for seven yards in the first two preseason games, but he got 17 carries in Game Three and picked up 74 yards (4.4-yard average). He also has three catches for 57 yards.
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